Why I'm Not Looking Forward to Christmas With Chronic Illness


Today yet another person asked me if I was looking forward to Christmas.

This sort of question fills me with dread. Why? Because I never know what to say.

As I saw it, I had two options. I could either not reply. Or I could fob the question off by not really answering it and saying something like, “My sister and nephew are arriving tomorrow, yay!”

And then it dawned on me that I had another option. I could actually, shock horror, be truthful.

I’ve had ME/CFS for 12 years now and I still try and put on a brave face and fake sunny smile. I never want to appear like I’m moaning. But how are people ever going to understand what I and others are really going through if I’m not honest?

So, am I looking forward to Christmas? Here is my honest reply:

No, I’m not looking forward to Christmas.

Christmas with a chronic illness is hard.

For the whole week before December 25th, I feel apprehensive about how I will be on the day.

I can never control how well (or rather how ill) I will be. Just because it’s Christmas, it doesn’t mean I will be great. It’s just another day like any other day with chronic illness that I have to get through.

I have a good chance of feeling pretty wretched on Christmas Day. Do you know how hard it is feeling rotten at Christmas? You have to paint on the smile and jolliness, swap presents, wish everyone a “happy Christmas.” And you’re reminded just how tough your life is when everyone in the world is having such a fabulous time (on the surface at least, I know Christmas can be difficult for people in so many different ways).

I hope I will be having a “good day. That way, I will have some relief from the symptoms. I will be able to smile without it being forced and I will enjoy the time with my family.

However, even if I am having a good day, that only means I can spend 45 minutes downstairs with everyone in the afternoon opening presents and 45 minutes in the evening for the meal. The rest of the time I am resting quietly upstairs, alone. Fun, hey?

And let us not forget about the repercussions of Christmas Day. Socializing for 45 minutes twice is a lot for me. The following few days I will feel even worse: fatigued, achey, flu-y. That’s how this delightful illness rolls.

I know this sounds like I’m moaning. But I don’t mean to. I just want to show the reality of life and Christmas with a chronic illness. I try ultra hard to be positive, believe me. But I think it’s important to show realistic windows into my life so people realize this time of year is not wonderful for everyone.

Once the Christmas period is over, I will feel relief. But I will also feel some contentment as I will have some memories of time spent with my family to cherish. That is what I look forward to about Christmas.

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Photo via Halfpoint on Getty Images


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